Date of Award

1-1-2009

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Oyana, Tonny

Abstract

In today's knowledge-based economy, issues concerning equitable access to telecommunication services and their quality remain an important public policy focus. Wireline broadband Internet brings a significant expense of installation and maintenance, especially in less densely populated rural and remote areas. The rural, sparsely populated areas of southern Illinois are considered the broadband periphery and are underserved in terms of equitable access to high speed Internet. This study explores utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a tool to identify relevant local obstructions ("clutter") in the development of a more reliable, cost effective metrics for the deployment of wireless towers. After performing extensive quality control on tower coordinates obtained from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which were only 47% accurate, a spatial model to represent and analyze wireless broadband infrastructure and demand in the twenty-one county southern Illinois study region was developed. The key factors extracted for wireless broadband propagation are the land cover surrounding the tower, elevation and slope of the terrain, and tower height. Geographically weighted regression analysis was used to determine typical characteristics of users of wireless technology, with income, age, and education having the most significant effect. According to Census data for the year 2000, 33,910 of the 174,959 households in southern Illinois have poor or no wireless coverage. Based on the results of the study and policy recommendations, wireless broadband technologies are viable solutions to help bridge the broadband gap in southern Illinois and rural America.

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